Xecutioner’s Return (Candlelight)
by Tim Den
Xecutioner’s Return, like the last couple of Gorefest and Grave records, is a no-frills old school nostalgic trip with only one goal in mind: Stick to the basics. Not that Obituary have ever “experimented,” but almost 20 years after their debut, they sound pretty much exactly the same, which is what all their fans hope for. However, to discerning listeners who yearn for the groove-mindedness of World Demise and/or the creepiness of Cause of Death, Xecutioner’s Return is about as captivating as Back From the Dead. Which is to say not very much.
When the band came out of hibernation with Frozen in Time, even I was quick to praise the quintet’s return and celebrate whatever new recording they were gonna release. It’s called loyalty, you know? But in hindsight, Frozen in Time was an acceptable but not by any means excellent death metal album, especially when compared to Obituary’s 2007 peers. Metal in general has progressed so far beyond Obituary’s meat-and-potatoes approach to slow, stomping brutality that even relatively primitive bands of today make these forefathers sound outdated. No, sounding “fresh” or “modern” is not a prerequisite for bands of Obituary’s ilk, but other groups like Amon Amarth and Kataklysm – relatively “safe” practitioners of the dark craft – are able to write better songs with the same tools. Granted, Obituary do sound a bit more agile and hungry here than they have in a long time – having lead guitarist Ralph Santolla blaze some heavenly and tasty solos certainly helps – but in the end, all the songs blend together into a hazy fog. There’s none of “Don’t Care,” “Turned Inside Out,” or “Back to One”‘s catchy memorability.
For the faithful who merely want another slab of power chords, breakdowns, and vocalist John Tardy’s unique and unmistakable cry, Xecutioner’s Return will certainly satisfy. For those of us who’ve stuck by the old guards all these years, however, it’ll be tough to keep up the enthusiasm.